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Accessible Voting Trial for Vision Impaired Launched at QLD Elections PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A new computer system, that allows voters who are blind or have low vision to vote independently and in secret, is being used as part of an accessible voting trial by the Electoral Commission Queensland for the first time at the 2015 Queensland state election.

The system, called e-Assist, allows a voter to place their vote by following voice prompts on an audio-enabled computer. e-Assist is available from 19 January at nine polling stations throughout the state including at Vision Australia's Coorparoo head office.

Vision Australia's Liz Jeffrey, Advocacy Advisor said that the trial of e-Assist, and the introduction of telephone voting at this year's state election, was a move in the right direction for providing the blind and low vision community with the same voting experience as sighted voters.

Optometry Australia Cautions 3D Movie Viewing PDF
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Australian News
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

3D Movie ViewingAustralia is set for a summer of movie blockbusters with Annie, Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies all attracting mass audiences to the big screens. But while offering a fun and alternative cinema experience, Australia's peak optometry body, Optometry Australia, cautions 3D movie viewing for young children and adults with impaired vision.

All 3D glasses work by filtering images so that the left eye sees one image, and the right eye sees a slightly different image. It's then up to the brain to fuse them together to perceive a 3D image. For this process to happen, the viewer's eyes must work well together. Where their vision is underdeveloped or damaged, these 3D glasses may cause fatigue or discomfort. The optometry sector's peak body recommends exercising caution before opting for the 3D movie experience. Optometry Australia's resident optometrist Luke Arundel said: "Children and people with poor 3D or binocular vision may notice problems from extended periods of 3D viewing".

Research from the French agency ANSES released in November 2014 recommended restricting access to 3D content for children under six and follows similar warnings from games manufacturer Nintendo in 2010 when it released its 3D games console. Italy has been the first country to restrict the use of 3D glasses by young children following a similar warning from its health agency last year.At this time the American Optometric Association has said it has no reports of eye damage as a result of viewing 3D content and Mr Arundel said further research was needed as the technology was still fairly new.

Optometry Australia further urges parents to be aware of the impact of "screen time" on their children's eyes – such as through watching TV, playing on smartphones, tablets and computers and recommends parents ensure kids take regular breaks.

Specsavers Accused of Supporting Animal Cruelty in TV Ad PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 08 January 2015

SeagullLast month numerous viewers complained about a Specsavers' TV ad to the Advertising Standards Board claiming that the optical retailer was "encouraging animal cruelty'.

The television advertisement shows two beach volleyball teams involved in a match. The player from the opposing team prepares to serve, with one of the other team players looking on preparing to receive the serve. The sun is glaring in his eyes and he doesn’t see that the other player hasn’t served the ball yet. Leaping up and thinking that he has spiked the ball, we then see that he has spiked a seagull flying past accidently mistaking this for the ball due to his poor eyesight. The player then celebrates his mistaken victory by running around the court in joy. We then see the seagull shake himself off clearly unhurt. We then cut to the seagull flying over the vision impaired player and getting his revenge on him by pooping on him.

Some of the complaints from the viewers: "It highlights cruelty in a humorous way and could encourage others to do the same. It desensitises pain and suffering.", and  "I object to cruelty to animals of all kinds, and after seeing this ad more than three times, find it incomprehensible that it has not been taken off the air. I find it quite alarming and distasteful, and feel that it promotes cruelty to animals/birds."

Specsavers responded to the complaints with: "The TV advertisement in question is one in a series of the long running 'Should Have Gone To Specsavers' TV campaign. The campaign encourages people to have their eyes tested in a light hearted way and uses humour to point out the silly things that people do when they can’t see clearly. In the particular commercial in question our intention is to draw attention to the poor eyesight of the beach volleyball player in a light hearted way and definitely not to promote violence and cruelty against animals. The volleyball player has not been portrayed as being violent against the seagull but rather has mistaken it for the ball due to his poor eyesight. The joke is very much on the volleyball player and the ad is designed for the audience to laugh along at the mistake the volleyball player has made. No real birds were ever used in the making of the TV commercial, it was all created using CGI animation."

The Advertising Standards Board has evaluated the case and considered that the advertisement does not depict, encourage or condone violence against animals. The Board determined that the advertisement did not breach Section 2.3 of the Code. Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on other grounds, the Board dismissed the complaints.

For the full case report goto:

Australian Government Reduces Investment in Preventative Eye Health and Vision Care PDF
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Australian News
Monday, 15 December 2014

The Australian Government has reduced its investment in essential preventative eye health and vision care as a result of the changes it is making to Medicare rebates to freeze indexation until July 2018.

President of Optometry Australia Kate Gifford said that: "The announcement by Mr Abbott relating to GP co-payments contained a sting for all optometry patients – a further two year freeze on Medicare fees for optometry services, along with other allied health practitioners, until July 2018. The optometry sector will be urgently pressing the Government to reconsider these measures so that optometrists can continue to provide the highest level of care to their patients. The optometry sector already has a freeze on indexation of Medicare items that has been in place since 2012 and now the Government has extended this further. These additional freezes, coming on top of an almost 5% rebate reduction effective 1 January 2015, have the potential to threaten access to essential preventative care within every Australian community. Notably yesterday’s GP rebate cut announcement excluded the more vulnerable in the community. Optometry Australia has been calling for similar exemptions since the May 2014 Federal Budget cuts and will continue to do so with renewed vigour".

Almost half of Australia's population suffers from vision or eye health issues. Evidence shows that 80% of these issues are preventable or avoidable. Early and regular checks by an optometrist are a key part in identifying eye and vision disorders.

"We believe that the Government is putting at risk access to eye care, particularly for socially disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations. While these are often the groups that most need eye care, they are often least able to meet out-of-pocket health care costs. Yet the Government’s changes make it increasingly unsustainable for practices to accept only the Medicare rebate as payment for their services. In real terms, these rebates keep reducing while patient servicing costs keep increasing. With an ageing population, the need for ready access to optometry care will only increase", Ms Gifford said.

According to an Access Economics for Vision 2020 report (2009), the total economic cost of vision loss in Australia is estimated to be $16.6bn – this is up $6.8bn from when this study was last undertaken in 2004. This represents an average growth in the cost of vision loss of $1.36bn a year.

Online Diagnostic Tool for Medical Practitioners Created PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 12 December 2014

CoDExThe Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) has launched a free online diagnostic tool for clinicians who encounter ophthalmic emergencies. The CoDEx (Computerised Diagnostic Expertise) tool on was developed by Dr Ehud Zamir, a practicing ophthalmologist and Senior Research Fellow at CERA after extensive testing at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. This testing has proved that CoDEx provides a correct diagnosis, or a narrow differential diagnosis in over 85 percent of cases.

Dr Zamir said the tool is specifically intended for medical practitioners such as emergency physicians, emergency room nurses, optometrists, specialist doctors and medical students to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis for serious eye problems. CoDEx uses information obtained mostly from guided history taking and symptoms. It weighs the answers to reach a differential diagnosis and presents it in the order of likelihood. It is generously illustrated with photographs equivalent to what is seen by an examiner without magnification equipment.

CoDEx also offers an array of concise monographs with practical information about each of the 40 diagnoses covered, including symptoms, signs, urgency of referral and treatment. The user can choose to receive an emailed summary of the case and to provide feedback to improve the tool’s functionality.

OBA Publishes Revised Guidelines on Glaucoma Diagnosis and Management PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 09 December 2014

The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) has published revised Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines which take effect immediately. The amended sections refer to treatment of patients with chronic glaucoma; accordingly the amendments apply to optometrists with an endorsement for scheduled medicines. Under the revised guidelines, optometrists can assess patients for glaucoma, make an initial diagnosis and start treatment when that is in the patient’s best interests.

Optometrists must provide a referral to an ophthalmologist about glaucoma treatment within four months of initiating treatment or earlier if indicated by a change in the patient's condition. As the four month referral is the only significant change to the guidelines, patients currently being treated independently by an optometrist for chronic glaucoma should be referred in accordance with this change at the next scheduled review, or prior, if the next scheduled review is later than 8 April 2015.

Modifying the guidelines is part of a solution to the long-standing legal matter between the Board, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO). The revised guidelines enhance the early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma in the best interest of the public and clarify the timelines for information exchange between treating optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Optometrists with a registration endorsement for scheduled medicines are required to comply with the new guidelines and failure to do so may constitute evidence of unprofessional conduct (section 41 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law)).

The revised guidelines are published on the Policies, codes and guidelines page. Also published is a document that shows how the March 2013 guidelines have been modified.

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